Sunday 28 May 2017

British Airways down

British Airways is down. All flights from anywhere to anywhere cancelled. And this is the start of the Whitsun bank holiday weekend, one of the worst possible times.

British Airways are blaming this on a "power supply outage". This is such complete balderdash that I can't help feeling that this is the first thing that popped into management's collective head.

So what really went wrong? Well, apart from the "power supply outage", there's also a few people speculating that it's a hacker/virus/worm/cyber-attack. I doubt it. Here's what I think.

BA outsourced their IT to Tata Consultants. Possibly the bean-counters didn't realise that some elements of a business are so important, they have to be done in-house, even when that costs more. I wonder if, right now, they still think that was a good idea?

I can't see "power supply outage", because A) you have UPSes (which last from 10 to 30 minutes), B) you have diesel generators, which give you an additional 24 hours coverage (and then you'll need to buy more diesel). and if IT is *so* important to your business that losing your IT service costs you bigly (for example, banks and airlines), then you have C) another data center, and a business continuity plan.

So if it really was a "power supply outage", then someone senior needs to be fired, because they didn't have A, B and C.

I don't think it was really a power supply issue.

But I have no idea what it was. Except that some pretty senior heads should roll.

Friday 26 May 2017

The Sky has fallen

I phoned up Sky today; the number to call is 0333 202 2135 . We have two Sky boxes, and we take everything except sport. We were paying £74/month.

I spoke to a speech recognition system, which asked me what I wanted. After several tries, to explain "price cut" "better deal" I had a slight inspiration; I said "CANCEL" nice and loud. That was understood, and very soon I was put through to an actual human. And I told him who I am, and explained to him that the problem is, we're paying too much.

He immediately saw the problem, and offered me a deal with the same access (Variety, Cinema and HD) for £51.20 instead of the £74 that I'm currently paying. So, a 30% fall in Sky price, just for making a phone call. Not bad.

This price will last until November 2018, and I'm guessing that at that point, they'll raise the price to some extortionate level until I call them again, and this time I took the direct number, which is 0330 041 3018.

This is actually a fairly common situation in the electronics world. You sign up for something which is a good deal at the time, but gradually prices fall, except you're still paying the same old price. The answer is to call your vendor and ask for a lower price, and you'll usually get it without hassle. And if you don't, you go to another vendor - which is what I did when I moved from Daisy to TalkTalk, and when I got my electric bill down by 20% by changing vendor.

So here's the lesson. Don't assume you're getting a good price for your services; phone them up and haggle. Or at least ask for their best deal.

Thursday 25 May 2017

Encryption and terrorism

Two things happened recently. One was the awful bomb in Manchester, the other was a minor inconvenience to me to make changes to my secure server to maintain my PCIDSS compliance (see previous blog).

The UK government has said that it's going to force all communications companies to allow encrypted data to be decrypted. This is not a good idea; let me explain why.

In our 65 million UK population, there are only a few would-be terrorists. The job of our security service, is to look for a needle in a haystack. There's two important rules in doing this. 1) Don't add a ton of hay to the haystack and 2) don't burn down the haystack.

The bomber, Salman Abedi, was known to the security services. He's been reported to the police several times for things he's said, but presumably they get tons of such reports, most of which they don't take much action on. Now add to those tons of reports, megatons of decrypted phone messages, facebook posts and tweets, and you can see what I mean about adding to the haystack.

But there's also the other side.

If you want to make it possible to decrypt people's encrypted messages, then you won't be able to use existing encryption systems, which are designed to be as difficult as possible to break, and which don't have third-party backdoors. You won't be able to use RSA for key exchange, or you won't be able to use DES, AES or any of the known-strong crypto systems. You'll have to design a new system. I'll give it a name. Let's call it Weakkey for key exchange; if you compromise the key exchange, then you can continue to use strong crypto.

So when you do the key exchange that starts off a crypto session, Weakkey will send a copy of the crypto keys to a third party for escrow (let's call this escrow agency UKGOV, for example). And then the end-to-end encryption will be done using existing strong crypto, and government will be happy, because they'll be able to keep a copy of the encrypted messages, and they'll have a copy of the keys so they can, if they want, decrypt it.

Which, of course, they will, because what's the point of having such a system unless you use it? If using Weakkey prevents even one bombing, that will be great.

So people like you and me will be able to use encrypted communications, but we'll know that UK Gov will be able to read our mail, and maybe we won't like that. Don't worry! I have a solution. The HTTPS protocol uses the strongest encryption available, because it's transmitting credit card data over the internet. So all I have to do, is use my browser to send an https-encoded message to you.


OK, then we'll have to include the encryption used by HTTPS in the Weakkey scheme. Now the evil bombers have no place to hide, yet internet commerce can still take place because it doen't matter if UK Gov can see your card data, they being so honest.

Until it leaks.

Because governments are as waterproof as a sieve. Remember Wannacry? That happened because the US government CIA developed a back door, and kept it secret ... until it leaked. More recently - the name of the Manchester bomber was leaked by the US, followed by crime scene pictures that should not just yet have been published.

Because here's a list if UK government data leaks.

And what will happen when Weakkey leaks?

My monthly PCIDSS compliance test will fail, because the crypto systems have been found to be insecure. And so will everyone else's. And companies all over the UK, will have to make emergency repairs to their secure servers, preventing the use of Weakkey and returning to ... to what? Anything that isn't Weakkey is (in the UK) illegal. So all ecommerce in the UK will come to a sudden halt. You won't be able to use Paypal, Amazon, internet banking. You won't be able to use your credit card online, except to non-UK companies, and you'll only be able to use it outside the UK if you're willing to use illegal (non-Weakkey) systems.

And that's what I mean by "burn down the haystack".

Tuesday 23 May 2017

More fun with PCIDSS

It's time to do my quarterly PCI DSS check. And it came back FAIL! Rats. I'm going to have to do something.

The problem is, people keep finding vulnerabilities in encryption systems. Already the venerable SSL2 and SSL3 is a no-no. Now TLS 1.0 is anathema, and we can only use TLS 1.1 and 1.2. Well, it's easy for me to tell my Secure Server not to accept the abhorrent ones. So, if you're using Apache:

 SSLProtocol all -SSLv2 -SSLv3  -TLSv1

More recently (at the end of 2016) a new thing called Sweet32 (vulnerabilities all have cute names now, like CRIME, FUBAR and POODLE) has been discovered, which makes any use of DES unacceptable. DES (data encryption standard) used to be the gold standard for crypto; triple-DES triply so. But now it's an abomination unto the industry. So, if you're using Apache:


And let's hope that all the browsers out there know these more recent ciphers, because if they don't, they won't be able to use my Secure Server.

I did a test with the Qualsys tester, and I got an A rating. Same as Amazon and Google, so I'm happy.

Saturday 20 May 2017

Flash upgrade

I wanted to read a particular article in the Independent (which turned out to be nonsense), so I went to their site. It needs Flash. My Flash was, and that's been found to be insecure, so Firefox advises me not to use it. Sigh. So I went to the Adobe site and upgraded my Flash to


Why are people still using Flash?

Weight report

17 stone, 3 pounds.


Friday 19 May 2017


My right calf has been giving me grief for nearly a week now; my left isn't too great either. I've been hobbling about the house, and going down stairs makes me long for a stairlift. But today I had an idea. Maybe I can make it worse!

We have a treadmill; it's mostly used by ladysolly. But I thought, if I set it to not-very-fast and not-very-uphill, maybe a bit of gentle exercise will improve things. Or maybe not.

So I set it to 2.3 mph, which is really slow, except that's my natural walking pace. I say "walkng", a better word would be "ambling". And 2% incline, so it's not entirely flat. I did ten minutes of that, and it didn't cripple me, so maybe this will help.

Wednesday 17 May 2017

Moped gangs

I'm seeing report after report about "moped gangs". And I'm annoyed.

50 years ago, I used to have a moped, a Mobylette, HUL 294. You can tell how much I loved it from the fact that I still remember the registration number.

It had pedals, a 50cc engine, top speed 30 mph and did about 200 miles per gallon. And the key feature of a moped, is the pedals. A moped has a MOtor and PEDals, hence the name "moped".

To run it, I'd get onto the saddle, and start to pedal. This would turn the engine over, the engine would start, the automatic clutch would engage, and away I'd go. I paid £17 for her, secondhand, from a place that sold mopeds and light motorbikes, and learned to ride on the way home. I had a learner's licence, and the insurance was a very tiny amount. I wore a crash helmet even though that wasn't compulsory at the time, and leather gloves, because if you came off a moped, your hands would suffer.

When I went up to Cambridge, I bought and rode a bicycle, but there's a nasty hill between Fitzwilliam and the town center, and I wanted my moped. But you were not allowed a motor vehicle, because if gownies had had cars, the traffic in Cambridge would have been dreadful. But there was an exception - if you were the president of a sporting club, you were allowed a car.

So I set up the Fitzwilliam Bridge Club, and as I was the only member, I was also the president. I successfully persuaded the Motor Proctor that I qualified under the exception, so I was allowed to ride my moped around Cambridge.

So let me explain why I'm annoyed. These so-called "moped gangs" aren't riding mopeds. They are riding motor bikes and motor scooters. They aren't riding moped, because they don't have pedals. They are "motorbike gangs".

Today, I ride an electric bicycle, and that has taken me full circle, because an electric bike is just like a moped, but not so fast and with less range.

Tuesday 16 May 2017

Lurgi, part 9

Two weeks after showing my Dreaded Lurgi to the doctor ... I'm feeling somewhat better now.

She gave me a week of antibiotics (on general principles) and an inhaler (for the bronchitis) and told me to lay off the Warfarin (which would help avoid future nosebleeds). The flood of nosebleed that I had on 1 May didn't recur - I think that was the low point, because it just wouldn't stop and I was awake all night. At the end of the week of antibiotics, I went to see her again. I blew into a tube (to measure lung function) and the result was pitiful, I scored around 500, which is *way* less than my usual score. So this time she gave me a week of steroids, aimed at clearing up the rest of the bronchitis.

After completing the week of steroids, I went back for another consultation. My lung function was *way* up to about 680, and I was no longer wheezing. But I told her that I have a great tenderness in my right calf. Apart from that, all is good.

And I don't think the Liqufruta helped me at all, I won't be getting that in future.

She squeezed the calf a bit, and fussed a bit, and worried a bit, because I have Leiden Factors 5 and 2, which means that I'm *very* good at clotting, which is good news if you get gored by a squirrel at the age of 21, but at my age and sedentary life, means I'm more likely to get a DVT or worse, which is why I'm on Warfarin. So is that a DVT? She didn't know, so she packed me off to Wycombe General for tests.

I drove there, and they took a fingerful of blood out of my arm and tested it. This told them that my INR (blood thinnness) is about 1, which is normal, and ideally I should be about 3, which is thin. While they analysed the test, I went home, then returned and they gave me a jab in the belly of something (Heperin, I think) that should thin out my blood really fast. And I'm back on Warfarin now.

They also wanted to give me an ultrasound scan to check for clots in my leg, but they couldn't give me an appointment that day, so I had to go back there. And that brings us up to today.

So I went to Wycombe General, found the ultrasound area (it's near to X-ray) and a nice nurse smeared jelly on my leg then inspected it with the ultrasound probe. After a careful check, she told me that I was ALL CLEAR, which is what I expected, but is nevertheless cheering. Also, I'm not pregnant. Then I had to wait to see a doctor.

So I sat in the Small Injuries unit for about two hours (I had a couple of books, and I can't really complain because everyone else who was there was more important than me, at that point, since we already knew I was ALL CLEAR. Eventually they called my name, and I went to see the doctor, who introduced me to a colleague of his who was also present and joked that I was getting two doctors! "Three, actually," I explained. So he told me what the nurse had already told me, that I don't have a DVT, so I got back into the car and went home.

I'm very impressed with the Small Injuries Unit at Wycombe, because A) they're open 24 hours, 365 days, whereas the one at Mount Vernon is 9am to 8pm. Also, they have a very good parking system, although you do have to pay, typically £2.50.

I'm generally a fan of Small Injuries Units. I don't use them often, but in the last few years, I've used them for a splinter under a fingernail that I just couldn't deal with, for a dog bite, and for a scalp wound that looked a lot worse than it was. In all cases, I've been seen very quickly, and mended nicely.

So what's wrong with my calf? I might have pulled a muscle. Anyway, I'm hobbling a bit, but I expect it to fix itself, because things usually do.

Saturday 13 May 2017

Cyberattack on our NHS!!!

Actually, it wasn't an attack, and it wasn't directed at the NHS.

It was ransomware, and each affected computer demands $300 (in bitcoin, to make it difficult to trace) to restore the data. $300 isn't much, but if the NHS has 1.2 million staff, I'd guess maybe half a million computers? Plus, can you trust the criminals who control this operation, to actually give you the decryption key after you paid? And what happens to data that has been encrypted by two different computers?

I have great sympathy for the NHS IT staff who now have to clear up this mess.

The NHS wasn't actually attacked. If you look at where affected computers are located, they mostly aren't in the UK. Cold comfort for a doctor cut off from her patients' data. But what can be done?

Three things. But first, let's have a look at how this thing "Wannacry" got in, and got widespread.

It spreads in two ways. the first is via an attachment in an incoming email, the second is via Windows file sharing (using port 443). So, don't click on attachments in incoming emails! Simple. But that doesn't work, and I'll explain why not.

Drive down any motorway, and look at the distances between cars. They are *far* too close. If the car in front has to brake hard, the car behind will slam into their rear. People have no real concern about personal safety, so why should they have any concern about computer safety? I am *strongly* opposed to any computer security scheme that includes user education, because I'm strongly of the belief that you cannot educate users in computer safety. If you can't educate them in personal safety, why would you think something as abstract as computer safety would matter?

The answer is to make it actually impossible to click on attachments in incoming emails, and the way you do that is to A) remove the attachements and B) don't implement the ability to click on things, in an email client.

So Herr Badhomme emails something including an attachment which, if clicked on, installs the ransomware. And in the email, he gives a compelling reason (compelling to maybe 1% of readers) why they absolutely must look at this. BUT! The email client drops the attached file, and doesn't give a link to click on. Problem solved.

Yes, this makes email a bit less useful. But it also makes it a lot more safe. You have to choose - do you want to keep on updating an antivirus product that misses 90% of incoming malware, or do you want an email system that isn't going to blow up in your face?

The second way that Wannacry spread, was via Windows file sharing. I use that (otherwise known as SMB, or Samba) even though I use Windows hardly at all, because it's a convenient way to share files across a network. But I just checked my firewall, and it explicitly disallows outside computers from file sharing on my inside network. So, check your firewall, and make sure that port 443 isn't open from the outside world. If you really do need to allow outside access via port 443, then you should restrict the IP addresses that are allowed access.

Next - I visited my GP recently, and she measured my lung function, then went to look up the recorded number to see what that translated to. And she couldn't. She evidently needs, and has, web access to the outside world, but recently her IT people changed her Internet Explorer to Chrome (good idea) but didn't port across her bookmarks (stupid).

I didn't notice anthing blocking javascript, and I didn't notice an ad blocker. NHS computers should have both. And should be moved off Internet Explorer (I use Firefox, Chrome is also good). I use Noscript to block javascript (except where I decide to allow it, which isn't often) and I use uBlock Origin to block ads.

The reason for blocking javascript, is that if you allow it, then you're allowing any web site that you visit, to run any software it wants on your computer. Not a good idea. And the reason for blocking advertisements, is malvertising - adverts that are specifically crafted to take control of your computer. And because advertising is done via middlement, even the most reputable web site can find itself displaying malvertising. And that's exactly what happened to in 2004.

So will the NHS make the necessary changes? Maybe there's someone there who reads this blog. We can only hope.

Friday 12 May 2017

More computer maintenance

I rebatteried the other UPS with three year old batteries. That went well, but when I restarted the attached servers:

One had a CMOS battery failure, and I had to replace the battery. This, of course, only manifests when you power the server off and on again.

Another had two drive failures. These are two 3TB Seagate drives, which are possibly the worst drives Seagate ever made. I replaced them with two 4TB drives, which I've found to be much more reliable.

The power distribution switch, that allows me to power on and off up to eight devices remotely, wouldn't switch on. I soon traced that to a blown fuse on the power plug. It was a 5 amp fuse, which is silly; it needed a 13 amp. That was quickly fixed.

So now everything is working fine, and the UPS will be good for another three years.

Wednesday 10 May 2017

Computer maintenance

Two of my UPSes were last re-batteried three years ago, so I decided to update one of them, UPS number 4. Because lead-acid batteries only last 3 or 4 years, in my experience.

I downed the servers attached to it, and put them on a different UPS. I got a set of batteries for £60 (I usually pay over £100 including shipping) and after a few days, they arrived.

I opened up the UPS, there's about a dozen screws, and if it's opened up, I can check that the fan is still working. Fans, being mechanical, have a tendency to fail after several years. Also, if it's open, it's easier to get the batteries out. I removed all eight batteries, and replaced them with the new ones. When I put a voltmeter on the old batteries, they were fine, showing 12 or 13 volts. I screwed the case back together, and replaced the UPS. I'm not sure what to do with those working batteries.

And that, you might think, would be that.

But one of the servers that I had downed, I noticed that when I gave it power again, the PSU fan wasn't spinning. So I took it down again, opened up the PSU and replaced the fan. The old fan was totally gummed up. These 80mm fans only cost £1 or so, so it would be silly to replace the whole PSU.

Then I noticed that another server wasn't responding, and when I power cycled it, it stayed down. I put it on my workbench and opened it up. I took out the PSU, and tested it - dead. So I replaced the PSU, and now that server is working fine.

It's always the case - when you start to mess with servers, some of them fail when you restart them. You have to be ready for this, and I have lots of spare PSUs and 80mm fans.

I'm a glutton for punishment. I've just ordered another set of batteries for the other UPS with three year old batteries.

Tuesday 9 May 2017

Powering portable gadgets

The batteries in our phones, GPSes and other electronics, are never enough. And rechargables don't last for ever; the typical life of a rechargable is a few years. After that, there's a noticable loss of chargability; your gadget runs for only a few hours instead of several. And it goes downhill from there.

So I splashed out on an unbranded "Super power pack" from Ebay. It claimed some huge number of amp-hours, which I didn't take seriously. After some months of working, it failed. So, of course, I dismantled it.

It wasn't designed for taking apart, I had to slightly crack the shell. Inside, I found four unbranded 18650 batteries in parallel, and a small electronics circuit. I tested the batteries, and one of them had totally failed, and that meant that the whole thing didn't work. So I snipped out the failed battery, so now it has 3/4 of its intended capacity, but at least it works.

And I got to thinking. What if I used replacable batteries, and a good reliable brand, and made my own? It's really only the batteries that have to be good quality, the rest doesn't matter much.

Ebay is my friend.

I started off with one of these. It's a "5V 2A USB Mobile Phone Power Bank Charger Module PCB Board For 18650 Battery" and it cost me 99p, which seems to be the lowest cost thing you can get on Ebay.

Next, something to hold the 18650 battery. I bought this which gave me five holders for £1.07 (I might use the other four in some other project).

Then, a battery. I wanted good, strong reliable ones. I did some googling and came up with these, "LG Genuine Lion Batteries HG2 18650 3000MAh 20/30A IMR Rechargeable Batteries", four for about £5 each.

The cheapest 18650 battery I could find on Ebay was £1.59, and it claimed to be 9900 mAh which is probably about five times as much as it really is. Would you buy a battery from such a vendor?

I already had a charger, but you can get cheap ones for £0.99

My next purchase was optional, but I've found it extremely useful; it's a thing that displays the voltage and current draw from a USB port, "USB Charger Doctor Current Voltage Charging Detector Battery Voltmeter Ammeter", £1.75. You can get a slightly different one for £0.99 that uses the same display for voltage and current, showing them alternately. I prefer the double display for the extra £0.76.

Now, on with the soldering iron! I soldered the + and - lead of the battery holder, to the B+ and B-  points on the PCB, and put a battery into the battery holder. I put the PCB, battery holder and battery into an unused Raspberry Pi case (any box or tin would do) and there was enough room in there for a spare 18650 battery.

Then I tested it. I connected the USB volt/ammeter, and my GPS, then pressed the little button on the PCB. A white LED started to flash, and the voltmeter showed 5.1 volts, 0.8 amps. And the charging display on my GPS showed that it was charging. Result!

The capacity of this is, for each 18650 battery, 3000 mah at 3.7v, which is 11 watt-hours. But since I'm outputting 5 volts, and allowing for a bit of conversion loss, that's going to be 2000 milliamp-hours.

So I had a look around Ebay, and you can get a 10,000 mAh pack for £7.59, which looks very nice, but there's always two questions - what quality batteries does it use (probably not the best) and can you replace the batteries after a few years (almost certainly no).

My device cost £7 for 2000 mAh ... but I carry a spare battery for it, which gives me 4000 mAh. I could carry more spare batteries if I wanted (and I always have a few extras in the car, because my head torch runs off the same batteries). And when the batteries get old, I can easily replace them.

Plus I have the satisfaction of making it myself.

Monday 8 May 2017

Funding our NHS

I went back to the doctor today, for a follow-up visit on my Dreaded Lurgi. I'm feeling a lot better now, but I'm still coughing. She did a lung function test (I blew into a tube) which came out as 400, which is well below par (I'm usually well above par). So I'm still fighting off the bronchitis. She gave me more pills - steroids, which will help clear things up. She laughed when I said "What about Vick" and told me to carry on with my prescribed inhaler. I also showed her my toenails - the fungus is retreating.

Cost to me - zero, of course.

But what about the NHS crisis that I keep hearing about? Well, I think I've tracked it down, and the answer will really shock you (as the clickbait goes).

The NHS budget is currently £118 billion. £56 billion is what the NHS is expecting to pay out on claims for compensation and lawyers fees.

So half of the money we were hoping to spend on health, isn't going on health. And maybe that's a problem.

Yes, I can see that suing for negligence has to be a possibility (although how many people have sued HMRC for negligence?). But it seems to me to be completely disproportionate that half the money that should be spent on health, is going somewhere else.

How to fix this? I don't know, but the first step has to be to realise that this is happening, and I, for one, did not.

Saturday 6 May 2017

Lurgi, part 8

That second dose of chicken soup seems to have helped a lot. I got a very good night's sleep last night, and I feel a lot better today. I'm still a bit coughy, and coughing still hurts (I think it's a pulled muscle, rather than a broken rib). And I had another nose bleed today, but that only lasted a couple of minutes.

The Liqufruta that I ordered, arrived today. It is *completely* different from the Liqufruta of 50 years ago. It's a syrup (very heavy on sugar) instead of a thin garlicy liquid, the bottles are *much* smaller, and it's a lot more expensive. Indeed, the only commonalities are the brand name, and the garlic. Still - I paid for it, so I'm taking it.

Friday 5 May 2017

Some people don't do numbers

A few days ago, Diane Abbott was being interviewed, in her capacity as shadow Home Secretary, about police numbers. She said they plan to add 10,000 cops. She was asked the obvious question, what will this cost? She said £300,000. This works out at £30 each. The interviewer challenged her on this, and she ummed and erred a bit, and came up with £80 million. That's works out at £8000 each, which still sounds a bit low to me. And the interviewer pointed that out.

So Abbott said that in year one, they'll recruit 250,000 policemen. Huh? Where did that come from? Challenged on that, she came up with "2,000 and perhaps 250". And she's clearly lifted off into total improvisation now.

At that point, I think someone must have given her a piece of paper, because she reeled off a series of very precise and more realistic numbers. "In year five, the cost will be £298 million."

Which sounds like her original 300 thousand, except she should have said 300 million. Now that's an easy stumble to make, and she might have said "Oops, did I say 300 thousand, I meant 300 million" But she didn't. What she did, was invent a whole slew of imaginary numbers.

So today, she was interviewed again, about the depth of the anti-labour landslide in the local elections. “At the time of us doing this interview, I think net losses are about 50,” she said. The interviewer said that it was actually 125. And Abbott replied “Well the last time I looked we had net losses of 100 but obviously this is a moving picture.”

Hey, Diane! If the last time you looked it was 100, why did you say 50? This isn't a "maths fail", it's a complete disregard for that fact that some numbers are a lot bigger than others.

Two things follow. First, Diane Abbott is *hopeless* with anything to do with numbers. She seems to think that all numbers have an equal status. Second, anyone interviewing her over the next few weeks, is going to get her onto numbers as quickly as they can.

And I shudder to picture someone who is this cavalier about numbers, in any position of authority higher than school crossing patrol officer.

Lurgi part 7

The Dreaded Lurgi has come up with an additional way to torture me. It's like the ten plagues, starting with pestilence, continuing with blood and all of this despite the sacrifice of a chicken the day before yesterday.

The new thing, feels like a cracked rib. I don't know if you can crack a rib by coughing too hard, but if you can, then I have. This makes breathing a bit iffy, and coughing very painful. And standing up, and sitting down, drinking, walking about. Anything, really, except for sitting perfectly still and trying not to cough.

This too shall pass.

Ladysolly will sacrifice another chicken today, together with several leeks. Leeks are not part of traditional Ashkenazi chinken soup, but they have been in our household (did you know that every jewish household has different traditions?) ever since I grew them on my allotment.

Thursday 4 May 2017

After the chicken soup

The chicken soup was *so* good. Chickeny, with lumps of chicken swimming in it, and with plenty of vermicelli, although I'm not a pasta identification expert. I had two bowls, and expcet to make a miraculous recovery real soon now.

And she said she'll do more on Friday! My bowl runneth over.

The Dreaded Lurgi is still here. And it's found a new way to torture me - cramp in the right calf. I woke last night for one of many toilet runs (my bladder isn't adapted for the amount of liquid I'm swallowing) and as I swung out of bed, it got me.

The cure for cramp is to stand still on that leg, which is all very well, except that I'd woken up for a specific and urgent reason.

I got there just in time.

Wednesday 3 May 2017

Chicken soup

As I mentioned in the previous post, I asked ladysolly as to the possibility of chicken soup, that universal panacea, also effective against the Dreaded Lurgi. I had in mind maybe a can of Campbell's Cream of Chicken Soup, or if I was less lucky, maybe a packet of instant Knorr.

No, no. Not at all.

She went out looking for a boiling hen, and apologised that all she could find was an ordinary hen. She sourced lockshen, and she's doing the mysterious magic that results in the combination of nectar and ambrosia (and I'm not talking about creamed rice) that is sometimes referred to as jewish penicillin.

It's at times like this that I know I was *so* lucky she married me.

Lurgi, part 6

At least I got some sleep last night, and didn't have to cope with buckets of blood gushing from my nose. But I was up every hour or so, because the size of my bladder isn't commensurate with the amount of water I'm drinking right now.

But the Dreaded Lurgi is still here, and it's expanded its remit to include a headache.

Google to the rescue.

I found that there's a homeopathic remedy for the Dreaded Lurgi called Mezereum. So I've started using that. I get it for free, out of the kitchen tap, and I'm sinking several pints of it each day, which is why I'm having to get out of bed every hour or so.

The other possible answer would be prayer. The problem then becomes which god to pray to. Google answered that conundrum; there is a god called Lurgi.

But the go-to cure for the Dreaded Lurgi is a Sousaphone sourced from Messrs Goosey and Bawkes; I have this on the authority of Hercules Grytpype-Thynne.

Maybe I'll just continue with the antibiotics. And I've sent ladysolly out to get more chicken soup.

Abbott's interview

Here's what I think happened.

1. She made a mistake. £300 thousand for 10 thousand cops is obviously nonsense.

2. The mistake was pointed out to her. She realised that this meant £30 per cop, and that she'd got it badly wrong.

3. At that point, she should have said "Oops, I means £300 million, silly me. But instead, she paniced.

4. In her panic, her mind went blank, as it does. She couldn't hink what to say. She was pressed for an answer, so she made one up, £80 million. Which was also bad, at £8000 per cop.

5. Everything went downhill from there on.

6. Eventually, she got to £300 million, which looks sensible, at £30,000 per cop.

But she's been pilloried for what I think was a simple mistake followed by her panic responses.

I feel sorry for her, which is a new thing for me with respect to Abbott. But the real problem wasn't the original mistake, it was the subsequent panic.

On Brexit

What we have to do is pretend that we hold all the cards, pretend that EU needs us more than we need them, portray any resistance to our demands as "punishing us" and blacken the name of any company who does the sensible thing and relocates to France or Germany. Then after the "negotiations" have "broken down", flounce out of the EU with a "hard Brexit", pretend that this is what we wanted all along, and pretend that the reason why the economy is suffering is that we are being "punished".

Then we can try to re-establish trade relations with Germany and act all surprised when they tell us that EU rules say they can't do that, we have to negotiate with the EU. And establish trade relations with New Zealand, and act all surprised when they remind us about the way we kicked them in the teeth 50 years ago, establish trade relations with the US and discover the precise meaning of "America First".

And our politicians will blame whichever EU official is villain-of-the-month for abiding by the rules of the EU, and the Brexit voters will blame the Remoaners for sabotaging the negotiations and the Remoaners will blame the Brexiteers for being such stupid buggers last June.

Meanwhile, our manufacturing industry will continue to decline, our farming industry will whine for subsidies to replace the EU ones, and our services industry?

There's two kinds of services. One kind is like haircuts. You can't import or export them, they have to be supplied at the point of demand. The other kind is like financial services. They dont have any capital equipment (apart from a bunch of cheap computers) but what they do need, is access to international financial markets, and regulatory permission to do business. Those, of course, will migrate to Germany, because without EU agreements, they won't be able to do business in the EU. At all.

Immigration will *not* get down to under 100,000/year, because it didn't pre-Brexit when Mrs May was Home Office, and we had total control over non-EU immigration, which was 257,000/year. So why would she be able to reduce that after Brexit? Maybe she could stop another of our service industries, the provision of education to foreigners who pay good money to come to university here. That would cut UK GDP, but it would reduce the immigration figures, temporarily.

Still, a country that is happy to cut off its own nose, would surely not balk at cutting off a few toes.

tl:dr - I'm not an optimist on this.

I know. Let's leave the British Commonwealth. That'll show them.

Tuesday 2 May 2017


I decided to visit the doctor on Monday, got an appointment for the next day.

The doctor stethoscoped me, peered down my throat, checked my blood oxygenation. She prescribed Doxycycline antibiotics (they must be good, the leaflet says they'll even cure syphylis, which I've always considered to be the Queen of STDs), and an inhaler, and a puffer of Ventolin, to ease my in-throat congestion.

The cost, of course, was zero.

I cannot understand why the Americans aren't demanding a similar system - paid for out of taxation, free at point of delivery.

Lurgi, part 5

My nosebleed stopped at 8am. 6 hours of heavy bleeding and no sleep.

The doctor visit went well. It's bronchitis, and she reckons that this contributed to the heavy nosebleed.

She gave me antibiotics and a puffer/inhaler. So far., so good, so I puffed and inhaled, took two pills ... and then the nose started to gush again after I sneezed. Bah.

... later ...

I managed to cap the gusher after about an hour.

Lurgi, part 4

eeeeeeee-Yakaboo! Yakaboo!

The Dreaded Lurgi continues. I'm still coughing up a storm, although not quite as badly as before, and I've made an appointment to see the doctor today.

But now I have another symptom, probably unrelated. At about 2am, my nose started to bleed. I've had nosebleeds before, it's usually just a few drops, but this time, it was worse, much worse. 6 hours later, and without a wink of sleep, the bleeding continues. If you asked me how much blood I've lost, the answer would, of course, be "nearly an armful!"

If I'm still gushing by the time I've seen the doctor (11.10 am), I'll get ladysolly to take me down to the Small Injuries Unit at Mount Vernon.

I've always had a good experience there. When I was testing my bike a couple of years ago and cycled straight into a tree in my garden that I'd stupidly forgotten about. I had a scalp wound, which also gushed blood. So I drove down to the Small Injuries Unit. I was wearing a white t-shirt, which was by then soaked in blood, and I must have looked pretty desperate. The nurse had a look, cleaned me up, applied a bit of glue and I was fine.

Maybe I need a dab of glue up my nose?